Integrating Culture with Leadership Development and Strategic Planning

I answered the following question at Best Practice Institute:
How do you measure culture change in your organization once the desired culture has been defined and actions have been taken to live into that culture? We have used various measurement techniques in the past that are primarily qualitative and perception based (examples: employee surveys, interviews and focus groups). Do you use any different metrics/methods that giving a better view into identifying the progress toward the desired culture? What were your lead and lag indicators of progress? In your experience, how long did it take to see the impact of culture change on operational excellence and business results?
Asked by:
Tracy Gowens, Senior Organizational Effectiveness Consultant, Allstate On 11:14am ET, Fri, Oct 21, 2016

What a question!

Here is my big truth.

Anyone who focuses just on the whole culture of a system is more apt to fail.

Schein will say so. Schein was the first to publish on culture. I was just with him in China when he said that the CEO is the culture. So I say, start with the leadership. We will have his video available in the next few months.

Now allow me to be being a heretic. The most powerful woman ever to live in organization effectiveness in my humble opinion is Katie Dannemiller. She often said that if you need to measure you’ve just failed. Why? Because if transformation was created, a shift in the identity or culture of a system would occur. This is big time effectiveness. The caterpillar becomes the butterfly. The results are so extraordinary that everyone knows and especially the CEO or top executive in charge of the system knows that the intervention was awesome. That is why Ford today still uses her process. I just heard about culture success at a Ford plant in India.

You mention employee surveys. I think they are mostly a waste of time. Employees hate them. Nothing ever happens with the results. There are exceptions. Allow me to give you one story. This is from one of the largest corporations in the world. They have 500 business units or businesses. They did culture work. All 500 business units were mandated to take an employee survey from gallop around engagement. Their group jumped to number one. All because of the engaging integrated whole cultural journey that was utilized. That is a culture change… naturally and spontaneously.

Here’s another point.

This is what I’ve been purporting at Best Practice Institute for many years:

Cultural change must be integrated with leadership development and strategic planning or business goal setting. Without this effort being synchronized and started from the top, the intervention will not be as effective.

Few people hear me.

Harvard research with over 1,000 CEOs around the globe say that Leadership Development gets a big fat “F’. Why? Because the CEOs’ say it does not connect with the strategic planning. And Ed Schein will say that culture work fails because it is not connected with the business. We have all heard the words of Drucker: “culture eats strategy for lunch”. So I say, integrate all three. Now you may not be able to start with Tom at the top. Instead, I say start with a leader that you know who lives the kind of culture you know is best for the organization. Go work with them. Then spread to others. At last, you will get Tom’s attention and then work with him.

You mention interviews and focus groups. Interviews that we really do in our whole system transformation effort at Best Practice Institute are to interview the executives in the first phase. In phase 2, when we work with the organization, interviews are not cost-effective. At that point, we gather the data with the design team and then also in the culture shifting transformative event real time.

Right now we are doing our data gathering with smart phones.

We also do numerous focus groups. Focus groups hold the top and others accountable.

Tracy. You ask how long will a culture change take. Chris Worley who in my mind is the number one academic leader in OE says that we no longer can plan change. The results must be immediate.

So I think it’s passé to believe that it takes a long time to change a culture. Done right, it should only take as long as the critical mass is involved in large group interactive experiences. For me, the cultural shift best happens in large groups of 300 to 2000 people. The groups must last at least three days. And the leadership must first have the culture change itself.

Allow me to give you another story. Ed Timberlake was instructed by the CEO for a Fortune 200 company to go find out how long it would take to change their culture. He came back and he said it would take 4 to 5 years. (This was 10 years ago.) The CEO said go look again: “I do not have four years”. He looked and he found and used Whole System Transformation. Culture change was caused immediately. There were nine standing ovations in the first top executive summit of 350. Ed received the first one. Nine standing ovations were the research!! The case is on tape someplace. Oh, then the Board was challenging the CEO why they flew 300 executives from around the USA three-day meeting. And he said, “see this line item on the budget, you have directed us to increase such for years.” We just did.

Clearly, you can see that NO evaluation was needed. Organizational effectiveness must produce instant results.

Tracy, you are asking the right questions. My experience is there is no easy answer.

Hope this helps.

Oh. Allow me to give you one last story. I was with Kathie Dannemiller & Dick Beckhard (who named OD with Herb Sheppard) in Mexico City with 400 OD people in the room. Kathy Yelled! “Stop working in small groups! You are doing a disservice to your clients. It is not fast enough. It is not deep enough. It does not impact the culture. It is not cost-effective. One needs to get system in the room.” Beckhard, just nodded in agreement with his head and smiled.

My point in sharing this is to say, it is not effective to be working any small groups any more.

On a side note. Both Dannemiller and Beckhard along with Bennis were two of the key start up advisors to Lou Carter here at Best Practice Institute.

And I apologize for one last comment..those who know me… know that I always have one more story!

Blanchard (One Minute Manager fame for you young people) said 30 years ago that he could create more culture change in a well planned three-day event than he could working in an organization every day for two years.

Well, I am not sure if I have been helpful… but at least I opened new challenges

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